Bougainvillea On My Mind

bougainvillea beauty

Everything happens for a reason, so they say. There is a chance to learn and grow even from bad experiences. I get that. I really get it, but sometimes I get sick of being pulled back into the negative energy of the past.

My brother-in-law is drinking again. It didn’t take him long. The violence that comes with the drinking is back too, in full force. He has already said he is going to throw my sister off the balcony of the first floor of their new house.

I went round to see her and she confessed it all to me in a rush the way a child does when they are caught doing something wrong.

He doesn’t mean it, she says by way of justification. He doesn’t know what he is doing.

I wasn’t really listening to her, focusing on the purplish-red marks on her neck that almost completely matched the colour of the resplendent bougainvillea growing along her garden wall.

I have a thing about bougainvillea. I love it and I hate it. When I lived in my old house back in the golden age I had the most beautiful reddish-purpley bougainvillea growing in my garden. It took me three years but I trained it to run the full length of the garden wall. It was glorious. Butterflies supped on it, birds frolicked, even little lizards snuggled in the thick of it. It was such a pick-me-up to see it every morning; so vivid, so bold…. like something Mother Nature herself might wear as a train or cape to a ceremonial ball.

When we sold the golden age house the new owners pulled all the bougainvillea off the wall. They burned it off. There were black marks left behind where it had clung with frenzied fingers begging: Don’t, don’t, please don’t. Let me stay……

I remember when I saw the bougainvillea was gone I broke out into one of those shuddering, choking sobs that can be hard to control…blubbering away like a madwoman right there in the street.

Since then I have avoided bougainvillea as much as possible. When I know I am well and truly settled I will plant a length of it again, but not yet….not yet.

My sister knows how much I love bougainvillea. The garden is full of it, she said, excited to describe her new home. I was pleased for her in a tentative way…fresh starts can be daunting, hard to get used to…it’s best to approach them with baby steps….but marks on someone’s neck that match the shade of bougainvillea in the garden don’t really bode well for me…..not well at all.

I can’t deal with this, I said to her. You know where I stand. I can’t go through it all again.

We leave on a bad note. She is angry with me, I can tell, but I refuse to get sucked in to the labyrinth of her need and denial. I won’t do it.

On the way home I stop at the lights in front of a house I have driven past a hundred times before. There is bougainvillea running along the front fence – dusky purple. The evening light is being filtered through it, casting filigreed shadows on the ground. Maybe it is wishful thinking on my part, but it seems to signify hope. I drive home, a little less grimly than before, imagining long, purple capes trailing their magic on the ground.


28 thoughts on “Bougainvillea On My Mind

  1. Every time I visit the Mediterranean, I wish I could grow bougainvillea or frangipani in my garden but, alas, it wouldn’t survive the first frost.

    I fear your brother in law will never change; it’s hard to say, but it’s up to your sister whether she accepts this or not; you MUSTN’T let it affect you; you have enough to deal with.

    (It happened to my cousin; she left him, took the kids with her and never saw him since … after I’d warned him that, if anything similar ever happened to her again, I’d be around to see him, and only one of us was going to walk away)


    1. It’s true – the frangipani and bougainvillea don’t do well with the frost. They thrive in Sydney. I fear we are becoming more tropical in our climate by the minute….in some ways that is nice, but in others it’s just too hot!
      My only way of dealing with this now, Travelrat, is to distance myself. It saddens me a lot that my sister is prepared to get back on that merry-go-round, but what can I do? I need to look after my own sanity. Thanks for your very wise comment!


  2. It is so hard to watched a loved one suffer when you are powerless to change their circumstances. I only hope your sister comes to her senses soon – for her sake, and yours.


    1. The powerlessness is the hardest part, Chartreuse. This is a smart, creative woman who does not have the courage to step away from this completely negative situation. It is very disheartening. Her fear of being alone overrides everything else. I partly understand that…but surely the constant threat of violence would be enough of a reason to leave. That, I don’t get….


    1. I hope so too, slpmartin. There are no easy answers. I’ve offered so many solutions my head is spinning…to no avail. All I can do now is hope….


  3. How heartbreaking, and yet we both knew it was coming. The cycle of domestic violence, especially when coupled with substance abuse, is such a hard one to break. As hard as it is, I agree that you can’t have yourself sucked into that again. It is your sister’s choice to live that way, and it has to be her choice to break free of it. You work hard to maintain your own emotional health and you can’t be hers as well. What can you do? Send cards and notes and pray for her. But you can’t witness more destruction thru her words, bruises, or tears. I will pray that at some point she reaches the breaking point that says I can’t keep doing this.

    To read about the new homeowner that so mercilessly tore up your beautifully trained flowers was heartbreaking too. I had a friend who had a similar garden of roses, bushes grown for years and years, and the new owners removed all of them in quick order, without ever offering them to her. I have learned that it is better not to go back, or to look back. Savor the photos and the memories that one has instead.

    Hugs to you, Selma, hoping for a better week ahead for all of us!


    1. Josie, you are so right. I knew it was coming. I was not surprised at all when she told me. It is an incredibly hard cycle to break… in some ways I think she is addicted to being a victim, probably on a completely subconscious level – but she is so used to it it has kind of become all she knows, all she expects. I have been sending her lots of emails and notes….and praying for her. It’s all I can do.
      The rose bushes would have broken my heart too. It’s true…. it is better not to go back… to upsetting. The only way is forward. Thanks for the beautiful hugs xxx


      1. in time maybe you can have a relationship with her that doesn’t focus on him. do you think she could do it? that is, be with you in a way that doesnt mean leaning on you for escape or protection from him, or needing validation for her choices, or just not being able to really relax and enjoy doing anything different, like meeting out somewhere. it’s complicated, but maybe there is a way to stay connected without getting physically and emotionally drained. it all depends on whether she could/would do it cuz i know you could, just dont know if she’d be able to forget about him long enough to enjoy spending some free and easy time with you.


  4. this is a new year selma – this year will be different, i promise, if you can keep focused on moving forward, and while bitter or sweet memories can’t erase destruction or delusion, you yourself have the capacity to carry on, even with any sadness pressing in, so you can keep walking, just keep walking, and focus on the many reasons to smile, and don’t be drawn into any dark drama you can’t control, n’est-pas? just don’t go there, and refuse to be ambushed by it. it’s a new year, go for the best only. people with a warped self-esteem will play many convoluted parts in the drama, and expect nothing other than a repeat of what they put you through already repeatedly, surprise her, don’t do it, don’t be there. she is making her own choices, you have a right to make yours. not meaning to be harsh but , c’mon, enuff is enuff.


    1. I am going to print this out and put it on my study wall, Tipota. What a wise person you are. I definitely don’t want to be drawn back into all my sister’s drama… I won’t do it. I have been really brought down by it and I can’t continue to do it. ENUFF IS ENUFF. No more. I am saying: ‘Bye, bye drama. Close the door on your way out.’ Thanks, Tipota, you are awesome xxx


  5. Hi Selma– many, many heartfelt prayers to you. And for your sister, too.
    I hope you’ll show her that poem, “Artist Without A Brush”, which I sent you, long ago. It published here in the comments on your Blog.
    I wrote it, after being repeatedly verbally criticized/verbally abused, and imagined a housewife who endure that, and worse. (It referenced the various colors on her body, bruises, etc.)
    I hope your Sis gets herself together, and stays away from this poor-excuse-for-a-husband. Sorry to sound so harsh, but Rehab is where he belongs, not sharing her home.
    You focus on YOU, because we love you, and we all need an “intact” Selma. God Bless You. And the Bouganvillea. 🙂


    1. I sent her that poem, Lisa. She hasn’t responded yet but I’m sure it made an an impact on her. He was in Rehab in jail but it didn’t seem to make a difference. When he was released from jail and I asked him if he would start drinking again he said: ‘Does a fish swim in water?’ I knew there was no hope for change then.
      I am going to focus on myself, Lisa. I just can’t do this any more. It’s going to put me in hospital in the psych unit. Thank you for the love. I love you too xxx


  6. How sad but as I learned from my brother, sister and parents deaths, you can’t help those who refuse to help themselves. it doesn’t matter what you say or do.

    As hard as it is, you must harden your heart to her circumstance or risk being pulled back into the nightmare. It’s one she created for herself and a part of her believes she deserves no better. Perhaps the issue is more with her and why she would stay. He needs help of that there is no doubt but she needs it worse I think. There has to be a reason she places such a low value on herself.

    I.m sorry to hear of your beloved flowers being burnt off that way. How horrible. They are a gorgeous plant!


    1. That is the crux of it, Cathy. If they don’t want to be helped there is nothing anyone can do. Nothing. I do think my sister believes she doesn’t deserve any better. That is hard for me to see because she is so much more than that. So much more.

      I couldn’t believe they did that to my bougainvillea, Cathy. Have they no soul, no love of beauty? Plonkers!


  7. Co-dependency is a bastard and all we can do is be there to listen and encourage, and we must. Re moving: I have a new rule and it is this: When one moves into a new situation, change nothing for a year to give oneself time to learn why it is as it is. I save money and maybe I will be what changes.


    1. That is fantastic advice re. moving, Stafford. WOW. Maybe I will be what changes. I love the thought of that.

      Yeah…. I’ll be there if she really needs but I will not get embroiled in the drama. I might be up on a homicide charge if I do. My son got a Katana for Christmas. I might strap it to my waist the next time I visit. (only partly joking…)

      Thanks for your wonderful advice!


  8. As awful as it is, you can’t help your sister, Selma – so frustrating.
    The way you find hope in the smallest details is inspirational.


    1. I know, Bluebee. It is frustrating but I have to accept that. I find paying attention to the small details really helps calm me. It is a reminder that even in the darkest hours there is always something beautiful out there 😀


  9. I hope her eyes are opened soon. She thinks she ‘loves’ him and will stick by him through thick and thin and that he ‘loves’ her too. Nothing anyone says will make any difference. I know, I was there once.


    1. Oh, Adee, I KNOW you really understand this situation. I could talk until I passed out and it still wouldn’t make a difference. I just have to hope and pray and wait…. XXXX


    1. I’ve got a thick blanket and lots of pillows, Gabe. They are really helping. I won’t go back there again… I just can’t. I do not want to go back to that black place. Thanks for your big hugs. They are the best!


  10. Something you love so much is reminding you of something that you hate – and that’s the abuse happening to your sister. Such bittersweet thoughts Selma. I hope your bro-in-law gets some sense smacked into his head and he learns to become more human. Your sister, she needs to be smarter and not fall back into the familiar abyss of hate, pain & sorrow with a regular dose of alcohol-fueled abuse. I wish he would see the light and change but after all this if he doesn’t – she needs to leave! For her sake.


  11. Selma, it sickens my heart to know your sister is back with that abusive drunk asshole. And I am so sorry, but you need to take care of YOU. And YOU cannot go through this all over again.

    It’s her choice, it’s her life. And I know how painful it must be for you to watch her suffer. But honestly, at this point, and please don’t be upset for me being so blunt, she’s bringing this on herself. She’s had SO MANY chances and opportunities to leave him and start a new & better life for herself. And yet, she goes back to him, the drinking, and the abuse, every. single. time.

    Sadly, it’s time for YOU to let her go.


  12. Good for you to walk away. I’m dealing with the same thing – my sister that we ending up adopting her son from is up to her old antics too. Supposedly she is a victim and we kept her baby from her or whatever nonsense she has cooked up in her head to help her sleep at night. She NEEDS me to be understanding, to let her play mommy with my son, to screw with all of us. I told her… no. Because people like that, until they see the games their playing, won’t give it up. And the only way you can help them, is not to play anymore. You’re doing THE BEST THING for her. And a nice side effect – it makes you stronger, wiser, and helps you to heal and get closer to a fantastic life.


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